Teacher Innovation #2: “Using Affinity Spaces in the Secondary ELA Classroom”

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Post number 2 of the innovation series comes from another friend, but not one I have had the honor of working directly with yet, Derek Wright. Derek has been teaching for 4 years and in that short time has done some amazing work in his classroom and as a leader in his school.  Derek’s emphasis on exploring what James Gee calls “affinity spaces” with students is an innovative approach to building community in a classroom as well as develop those much desired, but often unquantifiable, metacognitive skills.

Previous Teacher Innovation Entries: Part 1

by Derek Wright

A very brief introduction:

All students want to learn. Period. But, if we are being honest with ourselves, all students do not want the way schools are currently setup. Everyday though students are learning, collaborating, and producing new content. They are doing this through an idea called “affinity spaces”. Affinity spaces are note only places where passionate learning takes place, but it is a place where content is being produced and consumed. These are highly engaging places that a community is built around learning, teaching, and producing. I am not going to spend a lot of time writing about the theory behind affinity spaces, but if you are interested in more theory about affinity spaces read Dr. James Paul Gee’s book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literary, and read Dr. Jayne Lammers, Dr. Jen Scott Curwood, and Dr. Alica Marie Magnifico’s article “Toward an affinity space methodology: Considerations for literacy research”.  This assignment idea came from being in Dr. Ryan Rish’s class during my undergraduate degree at KSU. Continue reading

Teacher Innovation #1: “Week 19: Equipping Seniors to Leave Our Classroom Nests”

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The first entry in the Teacher Innovation Summer Series comes from my colleague and friend Bill Smith. Bill is veteran teacher having taught in an ELA classroom for 14 years. This past year, Bill worked closely with many of our seniors and as you will read, he faced a few interesting challenges. Today’s post focuses on developing authentic conversations with senior who are on the verge of leaving our familiar and prescriptive schoolhouses.

by Bill Smith

“But I haven’t done anything yet! I’m just a student…”

“How do I calculate my HOPE [scholarship] GPA…?”

“I don’t have any work experience….”

“What’s the passing score for the SAT?”

“My ACT score wasn’t good enough. Now what…?”

“Who am I supposed to get references from…?”

What is that smell? Fear? Exasperation? Is it coming from them or me? Why do I have to fight so hard against making assumptions about what my students are capable of, of how far they’ve progressed? Maybe I’ve just overlayed my own high school template on this situation: I think I saw my guidance counselor once in the four years I was there, and one of my English teachers kept a poster of SAT dates by her door. That was it; at no time did any of my classroom teachers connect me we resources, skills, practices, or people to help me get to college. And of course I was going to college, so I’d just wait for the conclusion of that chapter of my life for someone to wave their magic wand and make an English major ready to get out and land some interviews. Continue reading

Guest Post: Reading the World through the (Epic, Tragic, & Anit-) Heroes’ Eyes

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While I am personally on a posting hiatus, I have asked for colleagues and friends to help with guest posts. The first of which comes from Glenn, who I introduced you all to in my last full post. Inside today’s post, Glenn will take us through the hero’s journey through the eyes of his students. Glenn documents his students’ epiphanies, and his own attempt to bring the journey we all endure to life, all the while preparing students to notice the epic, tragic, and anti-hero in themselves. I hope you enjoy reading through Glenn’s reflection as much as I did!
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Guest Post: A First Year Teacher Reflects on Using Zines in His ELA Classroom

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Today’s post is special! I always love having guests write on the blog, and it simply does not happen enough. Today’s guest is Jason Smith. Jason is a first year language arts teacher, instructing 10th and 12th grade language arts in Cherokee County. I met Jason during his time in his MAT cohort, and this past semester he asked how I did zine work with my students. After giving him some guidance, Jason took off and did something very special with his students. See his reflection on zine making in his classroom inside! Continue reading

Writing as Design Part I: Revising Writing Instruction

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As a disclaimer, much of this series of posts is inspired through my doctoral studies; specifically, the design approach I’ll be espousing is directly inspired by Dr. Ryan Rish–who I’ve cited many times on this blog–of Kennesaw State University.

Over the course of this school year, I have internally questioned my approach to writing instruciton continuously. The catalyst for my uncertainty presented itself unwittingly to me during last year’s summer courses. Continue reading